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Book Reviews


Cosmic Challenge – The Ultimate Observing List for Amateurs
Author: Philip S Harrington

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

ISBN: 978-0-521-89936-9

Price: £27.50 (Hb), 469pp


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It’s no surprise that most amateur astronomers like a challenge: just tracking down the constellations for the first time is pretty daunting – ask any beginner - so a book highlighting challenging observing targets is likely to prove popular.

It has to be said that Cambridge University Press know how to make books attractive and this hardback is no exception. Well presented, no nonsense, lots of content and very few typos. The targets themselves are preceded by a 26-page discussion of equipment and techniques that is generally interesting, although I’m not certain that knowing what aqueous humour is, greatly helps. After this, Harrington gets into his stride and runs through a range of 187 target fields suitable for observation, using everything from the naked eye to a light bucket Dobsonian employed at a pitch-black site.

The choice of objects is pretty good, with M33, the Gegenschein and Barnard’s Loop all featured. In fact most the objects are worth a look (if you can) but a few just make you wonder, why bother? Einstein’s Cross, yes. Seyfert’s Septet, yes. Abell galaxy cluster 2065? Why? On the whole, however, the objects discussed are interesting or are in some way of historical significance as Harrington explains in the well-written accompanying notes. The notes for each object also contain a map, some details and a telescopic/binocular view, but some of these are a bit too dark and might have been better printed as black on white. In addition, a few decent images of some of the objects would support a better appreciation of what it is we are seeing. Surely an image of NGC 7354 or Stephen’s Quintet is worth a thousand words, and why waste empty paper?

Overall, an interesting and attractive book that will keep most purchasers happy and which may, eventually, become very popular indeed.

Grant Privett

2009 Yearbook
This 132-page special edition features the ultimate observing guide for 2009, a review of all the biggest news stories of 2008, in depth articles covering all aspects of astronomy and space missions for 2009, previews of International Year of Astronomy events and much, much more.
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Infinity Rising
This special publication features the photography of British astro-imager Nik Szymanek and covers a range of photographic methods from basic to advanced. Beautiful pictures of the night sky can be obtained with a simple camera and tripod before tackling more difficult projects, such as guided astrophotography through the telescope and CCD imaging.
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Exploring Mars
Astronomy Now is pleased to announce the publication of Exploring Mars. The very best images of Mars taken by orbiting spacecraft and NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers fill up the 98 glossy pages of this special edition!
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Mars rover poster
This new poster features some of the best pictures from NASA's amazing Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
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